The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

30 January 2008

Mainstream Media Quick To Pounce On Rush Over McCain Win


Media Elite See Florida As Loss For Limbaugh

Have "hysterical and one-dimensional" talk radio hosts been handed another major loss? Or were Florida's results simply a re-run of the complicated dynamics that occurred in South Carolina a week earlier?

For weeks, the mainstream media (MSM) has been portraying southern election contests as a referendum on the popularity of talk radio, with Rush Limbaugh singled out as a particular target. Now that McCain has repeated his Palmetto victory in Florida (albeit by an underwhelming margin), the journalistic elite have been quick to pounce on El Rushbo, highlighting his perceived weakness in battling McCain:

(WaPo via Seattle Times) For McCain, the victory proved he can win without independents or Democrats, who backed him in earlier contests but were barred from participating in Florida's Republican primary. The win came in part because of heavy support from Hispanics, and it helped erase doubts that he can't win over members of his own party.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh continued to rail against McCain last week, but key establishment Republicans, including Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez, provided critical support with late public endorsements.

McCain tried to keep the focus of the Florida campaign on foreign policy, where he thinks he has the advantage. A former prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain rebuilt his campaign last year on the strength of his support for the buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq.

From Slate:

Now McCain can expect an influx of money from supporters and a hail of attacks from that portion of the GOP establishment that despises him. The race has shaken out, and it's now down to just Romney and McCain. While McCain has the momentum and will inherit most of Giuliani's supporters when he drops out, Romney, who can spend his own money, will now benefit from all of those Republicans who McCain has pissed off over the years.

Already David Bossie, longtime GOP operative denounced by members of both parties in the past, is behind an ad campaign airing on Fox that compares McCain to Hillary Clinton. Rush Limbaugh is already on Romney's side, and Tom DeLay will no doubt come out of retirement with a broken beer bottle.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

"With Super Tuesday coming up, it's now McCain versus anti-McCain," says independent pollster John Zogby.

McCain faces fierce resistance from some Republicans, over his support for campaign-finance restrictions, comprehensive immigration reform, and occasional votes against tax cuts. Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh recently warned his listeners that a McCain nomination would "destroy the Republican Party." Evangelical leader James Dobson has said he would not vote for McCain "under any circumstances."

From today's Washington Times:

For weeks, Mr. Limbaugh, the king of talk radio, also has pounded Mr. McCain as a Republican who deserted his party's positions on core issues — from his earlier opposition to the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 to his support with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, for an immigration bill that would have given illegal aliens a path to citizenship.

And the Chicago Sun-Times:

The Arizona senator's win came in the face of relentless attacks from conservatives including radio talk show giant Rush Limbaugh and columnist George Will, who argued that McCain is too much of a maverick to be the conservatives' standard-bearer. "I am as proud to be a Reagan conservative today as I was" when first getting into politics, McCain told his supporters.

From RealClearPolitics:

For Ditto-heads everywhere, last night was a tough one to swallow. Rush Limbaugh, along with a cohort of other influential conservative radio hosts, make no secret of their disdain for John McCain. But with a McCain nomination looking ever more likely, will the Ditto-heads try to find common ground?

So prevalent was the connection between Rush and McCain today that it is actually difficult to find news coverage of last night's primary battle that doesn't mention the talk titan.

But what about the big question, why McCain actually won and talk radio's real role? In viewing last night's cable news programming, there was surprisingly little perspective placed on the results.

Keep in mind that Rush has endorsed no one and while he's made his opposition to McCain's candidacy clear, he's never outright urged listeners not to vote for the Arizona senator.

In addition, South Florida is now home to many liberal Republicans who are refugees from New York and New England. There's no doubt that had a major influence on the vote, as did overwhelming Cuban- American support for McCain. Romney clearly failed to communicate his message to this extremely important voting bloc.

In addition, Romney's campaign structure was found lacking in Central Florida, where his victories should have been strongest. And McCain's ties to Pensacola undercut the former Bay State governor in the Panhandle, an area that should have been his for the taking. Hopefully Mitt will learn from these strategic mistakes.

Consider also that four major Republicans were duking it out, which split the vote in ways that still aren't completely understood. With Rudy now out of the race, it isn't a certainty that those votes will go to McCain on Super Tuesday.

Despite what the pundits might have you believe, the real contest is a week away, where a number of states will have their own opportunities to weigh in on a contest that still lacks a clear front- runner.

Talk radio's influence remains as strong as ever, as evidenced by increasing ratings for its biggest guns. By setting unrealistic expectations, the medium has been set up for failure by its longtime media foes, who have cleverly taken advantage of an uncertain time in politics.

UPDATE: there's a gloomy AP story on Romney's prospects here, but one major point has been missed: will frightened conservatives turn out in droves next week to make sure McCain isn't the GOP nominee?

UPDATE: Instead of sulking, Rush turns the whole thing into a parody opportunity


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  • This is the time of the political season were I can’t stand to listen to talk radio. They do believe they can put anyone in office. Unlike what the left says the right makes up their own mind when it comes to a candidate.

    Rush does not openly support Romney he just tries to tear down any competition to Romney. I heard another host, Beck; say that if Huckabee dropped out his supporters would support Romney. I think he is absolutely wrong; they will go to McCain because of the abortion issue. They would vote for Romney if he got the republican nomination but that will not happen even with every host pushing Romney.

    Rush needs to stick to what he does best promote conservative ideas not push his favorite candidate.

    By Blogger pf1, at 31 January, 2008 02:13  

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